Communtity Law Manual | Immigration | Family violence and vulnerable migrants

Family violence and vulnerable migrants

Domestic violence

Immigration New Zealand has established two special visa categories for migrants who’ve experienced domestic violence. You can apply under these categories if your immigration status in New Zealand depends on an abusive partner who is a New Zealand citizen or resident. In these cases, you can be granted a Work Visa for six months, and in some cases you can be granted a Resident Visa. You can’t get a visa under those special categories if your abusive partner is not a New Zealand citizen or resident and only has a Work Visa.

Immigration NZ uses the same definition of “domestic violence” as is in the Domestic Violence Act 1995. This is a wide definition that includes physical, sexual and psychological violence. The definition is explained in the “Domestic violence and elder abuse” chapter of this Manual.

The Immigration New Zealand staff who will deal with your application have special training in dealing with domestic violence and its effects. You’ll also be given priority over other residence applications.

Note: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley has produced a booklet on these special domestic violence visas, called Guide to Applying for a Special Visa for Victims of Domestic Violence. The booklet includes practical information, for example, on how to prepare the statutory declarations you’ll need. For how to get a copy of the guide, see “Other resources” at the end of this chapter.

Special Work Visas in domestic violence cases

INZ Operational Manual: Temporary Entry, WI7

You can be granted a special Temporary Visa (Work Visa) if:

  • you are, or were, in a relationship with a New Zealand citizen or resident
  • you had planned to apply for residence on the basis of this relationship
  • the relationship has now ended because of domestic violence against you or your children, and
  • you now need to work to support yourself.

This Work Visa gives you your own visa status, independent of your ex-partner’s status. It also gives you some time to think and plan for the future. The Work Visa will last for six months, but it can be extended to nine months if you apply for residence (see below for information about the special residence category).

You’ll need to provide some evidence that there’s been domestic violence. This could be, for example, a protection order made by the Family Court against your ex-partner, or a conviction in court for a domestic violence offence, or a statutory declaration (a formal statement) from a doctor or social worker. You’ll also need to provide evidence of your relationship – for example, your marriage certificate, or photos of the two of you together. Immigration New Zealand’s Operational Manual has full details of all the evidence you’ll need to provide (see the reference to that Manual above).

Special residence category in domestic violence cases

INZ Operational Manual: Residence, S4.5

You can be granted a special Resident Visa if:

  • you are, or were, in a relationship with a New Zealand citizen or resident
  • you had planned to apply for residence on the basis of this relationship
  • you’ve now separated from your ex-partner because of domestic violence against you or your children
  • you can’t return to your home country because you would have no way of supporting yourself financially, or because you’d be abused or excluded from the community because of social stigma (this could be stigma associated with domestic violence, or with being separated or a solo parent, or other associated stigma), and
  • you meet the health and character requirements for residence (see “Residence Class Visas: Living in New Zealand permanently” in this chapter).

Getting a Resident Visa means you can live and work in New Zealand and can eventually apply for citizenship here.

The evidence requirements for the Resident Visa are the same as for the Work Visa (see above), except that you’ll also need to provide evidence of why you can’t return to your own country. If you want, you can apply for the Resident Visa at the same time as you apply for the Work Visa.

Cases [2016] NZIPT 203384

Example: Refusal of Resident Visa under domestic violence category

In one case, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal decided that a woman from the United States who was refused a Resident Visa under the domestic violence category hadn’t shown that if she had to return to the US she would suffer abuse or exclusion because of social stigma. The Tribunal said that the special residence category for domestic violence “is not designed for women from first-world nations with cultures and laws upholding equal opportunity for women, whatever their relationship status.” (But that focus on women from non-western countries doesn’t apply to the special Temporary Visa (Work Visa) category for cases of domestic violence: see above.)

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